If things go wrong for employees travelling for business purposes, the effects can be far-reaching and very expensive. It is crucial for any size of organisation to have a current Travel Policy, adequate insurance (including assistance), and contingency plans in case of emergencies. If you have a Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Manager, then business travel has to be included in their remit. Incidentally, if you are of the opinion that your company is too small to warrant giving business continuity lip-service, you really should think again; someone within the organisation should be taking responsibility for this element of operations, even if you do not have a dedicated BCM/DRM.
Whoever is ultimately responsible for business travel should be liaising with the Business Continuity Manager to identify and manage risk. Many problems that arise abroad can be avoided by education and comprehensive travel policies and procedures, by investing in a little preparation you could save a lot of money and heartache. So where should you start?
Identifying and managing the risk
• Research and Information Gathering. Check out the FCO travel advice or secure the services of an expert who will flag up trouble spots before travel takes place. Debrief staff on return from their travels to identify potential issues for the future.
• Prepare staff. Whether it is by training or a regularly reviewed Travel Policy, make sure your staff know what is expected of them when they represent your company abroad. Warn them of potential dangers and equip them with the means to avoid or deal with difficult situations.
• Highlight Gender/Sexuality issues. There’s no sugar-coating it, in some parts of the world restrictions are placed on women, and homosexuality is illegal. In fact, according to a recent ILGA report, same sex relationships are criminalised on 72 countries and can result in the death penalty in eight. Some staff may choose not to disclose their sexuality to you so it is important that you advise all members of staff of potential issues and the support available in the event of a related incident.
• Keep track. Whether you choose to use tracking apps or whether you have a system in place to ensure regular check-ins, it is important that you know where your staff are. They should also have a code-word to use if they are in difficulty.
• Take Cover. In today’s uncertain times, travel insurance is rarely enough. Access to the services of medical and security assistance companies covers many issues, but there has been a gap in consumer need for consular assistance which cannot be met by resource-stretched governments.
• What to do in an emergency. Empower staff to help themselves. Equip them with relevant information and educate them so they can stay safe. Provide fit-for-purpose support in the event of a problem and ensure that they can contact someone who can actively assist them 24/7.
• Make alternative arrangements. Unfortunately, governments around the world are not in the financial position to help every one of their citizens who gets into difficulty abroad. Yes, they will help as many as they can within decimated budgets, but as a result of limited resources, it is usually only the most vulnerable who receive direct support. Calling the embassy at 6 o’clock on a Friday evening is often met with a response effectively advising you to call back Monday morning!
Consularcare can assist you every step of the way when you are managing risk. Our consultancy and training services can identify issues and equip staff with the knowledge to travel safely. Our ConsularAssist product offers a range of support levels to ensure your staff are never more than a call away from the advice and assistance they require to resolve issues from lost passports to being detained. Contact us today to find out more.